Electoral campaigns are governed by deadlines and voting results, unlike social movements, which can ebb and flow for decades. The pain of a stunning defeat inevitably takes a psychic toll on its participants, similar in ways to a seven-game World Series. It takes time to recover, and some never will.
But politics never stops. If Democrat John Lehman holds onto his narrow lead over Republican Van Wanggarrd for a state Senate seat, Wisconsin Democrats will wrest majority control of that chamber from the Republicans, setting the stage for another showdown this November, when sixteen of thirty-three senators will face election. The legislature ordinarily is out of session during the summer, possibly limiting the ability of the new Democratic majority to foil Walker’s triumphal agenda.
But the big picture is disastrous for Democrats and progressives. Walker beat Democrat Tom Barrett solidly, 53 percent to 46 percent, in a campaign fueled by unprecedented levels of corporate money. The Tea Party, which became relatively isolated during the Republican presidential campaign, is back in the saddle. Its triumph in Wisconsin will embolden advocates of slashing social programs and deregulating the economy to become even more adamant during the coming national budget debates.